Berryz Koubo on Music Fighter

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

While I’m pretty happy with my Berryz Single V for “Jiriri”, I find that the recent appearance of the girls on Music Fighter has been just as enjoyable, if not more so, showing a side of them that we don’t see often enough. I was going to save this for last in my “Jiriri” spate of entries, but really really want to talk about it now before it grows too dated.

Part of the reason is that the folks at HPS has done fans a great service yet again by subbing the clip (download here) as it makes the entire show highly enjoyable, a richer experience for fans such as myself. And part of it is because it’s another clear sign of what a Berryz future in Jpop will look like.

Here are the show’s hosts that will talk to the Berryz…

And here are the Berryz as they make their entrance.

Now here’s something that annoyed me about the PV: I couldn’t tell what color their dresses were! It’s nice just to see who’s got what color. I’m still sore about that, weeks after the fact.

Of course, being such a young group, they’re immediately grilled on how old they are, with Risako being singled out since she’s the baby of the group.

Then host Nishino asks whose got the youngest parents. The others look around but Saki steps up to the plate and points to Momoko. I like that Saki actually knows these kinds of things and steps up to the plate like a true captain.

And call me crazy but I think it’s real hot that Momoko’s mother is younger than me. That means she had Momoko in her late teens. And as much as I adore Momoko, I’m re-reading VN’s Lolita right now and the possibility of Momoko’s mom being a hottie has fired up my imagination in unexpected ways…

Back in reality, hostess Sayaka Aoki seems a bit stunned when she reveals she is the same age as Momoko’s mother. Right off the bat, then, a nice tension is set up between the hosts and their guests – the age disparity becomes a big part of the comedy, though not always in the expected way.

Here’s a shot of the girls with their ages and their grades… I find it interesting that Yurina is a grade higher than Risako…

… and hey! Did you guys know Momoko was already fourteen? Hm. When did that happen?

The first question is about their leader, though Nishino has to be told twice the title is “captain”.

Shimizu – or Shimi, as she’s called throughout – explains that she’s the captain, which makes sense as she’s the oldest. She then says simply that the company told her she’s captain so that’s why she’s got the job.

The hosts then asks about school life, whether they attend a co-ed school, and then focus on Risako’s nascent romantic experiences.

I know some people think Risako could have been more articulate, but I actually think she did a great job.

As far as I’m concerned, she was being quite graceful and answering unexpected questions as best she can.

If anything, the way she falters or doesn’t quite speak up is actually endearing because it does point out she’s a kid.

And there’s something about the way she looks throughout the clip which seems precocious. When she’s singled out by the hosts, there’s something of a spark in her that she seems to be holding back, but you definitely see the glint in her eyes.

And I guess I should add here that the girls are very engaged, and look like they’re having fun throughout. They’ve come a long way since their first appearance on Utaban a couple years ago, where they just smiled wanly and seemed to pray for the show to just end.

Nishino and Aoki have a pretty good strategy, going back and forth between questions about the girls and explanations about their own lives. This not only made for great comedy, but the girls don’t feel as self-conscious and so seem more willing to share.

Aoki teases the girls about their outfits, and Nishino steps up to defend them. This is another great strategy of the hosts, I think: Aoki comes across as the scary aunt, while Nishino allows himself to be just a teensy bit lovestruck around the girls, to let their charms affect him.

This observation by Nishino, for example, is kind of cute, kind of creepy, and definitely funny.

And then the show takes a turn towards the weird and willfully perverse…

I love how the girls answer this question in unison and quite loudly. Actually, the girls give several answers in unison throughout, starting with the correction of Nishino on the whole captain thing. It doesn’t show shyness, that they’re hiding behind each other and refuse to be singled out. Rather, their loud group answers emphasize their coherence as a group, that they’re that tight a unit. It’s quite impressive.

Nishino and Aoki explain that when they were kids, it was actually quite common to bathe with your fathers. Miyabi’s then singled out for a follow-through…

And asked a question I wouldn’t have ever had the balls to ask myself. I don’t think Ishibashi could have gotten away with this either, actually.

Miyabi takes it in stride, explaining after a split-second of thought that she bathes by herself. She looks a little off here, the whole clumsy adolescence thing in her teeth and eyes, but still cute – and to be honest, her performance in the PV still impresses me.

When asked about what’s popular at school nowadays, Momoko steps up to the plate…

She explains what they do with the psychology tests, then reads a question she made up.

Balloons! Is this a Def. Diva reference in disguise? How influential is Def. Diva on the new single and PV?

Nishino answers five years old, Aoki thirty-five years old. Momoko then tells them that’s their inner age. They ask the natural question, seen above…

And Momoko gives an honest answer that floors them.

Nishino tries to reason with her…

And Momoko provides another charming answer.

The audience apparently finds that satisfying enough.

I was thoroughly charmed by Momoko here. On the one hand, she was just so adorable and I like how she stepped up to the plate and was entertaining. On the other hand, the closet ethnographer in me sees an apt spokeswoman for Generation MySpace. Previous generations took self-understanding and self-awareness seriously, when the Cosmo quiz and personality tests were meant to give one pause and reflect on how accurately it reflect’s one’s course of action and behavior.

With the proliferation of such tests on the internet – and the amateur way they’re now handled, where you can find out everything from what kind of manga character you are to what your rap name is – the focus has shifted from introspection to distraction. The answers don’t matter as much, nor their meaning, because it’s all about fun. Is that a bad thing? Most of my generation would probably say yes. I don’t think so, mostly because it’s just another way the internet exposes that an essentialist identity – the search for a “real” me – is ultimately bogus, that we live in a postmodern world where identity can be changed as easily as a username… or a quiz answer.

In short, Momoko (O Momoko) makes a great postmodernist. But of course, that’s why I’ve always been interested in her. You know. Her postmodernism. It’s quite fetching when she wiggles in a postmodern way.

Chinami is next up, as she’s singled out by the others as the one most adept at comedy in the group.

Saki again plays good captain by explaining why Chinami has been chosen. Saki’s a good captain!

Chinami then goes on to provide a pun…

Which is lost on me since I don’t know Japanese. But luckily, the people at HPS make it all so clear!

Is this Chinami’s secret? Is this the way she will blossom and surprise us all? I’m not sure. My faith in Chinami as an idol with potential is strong, but I still can’t pin down why. (Which may be the whole point.) Still, her facility with wordplay and puns shows that she’s got a strong intellect as well as a playful one. Which places her up there with wiggly postmodernist Momoko to me…

At any rate, the audience seems to be eating up the Berryz, since they applaud this as well. I hope H!P’s powers that be notice that and book the girls accordingly in the future.

Next is a series of quiz questions.

Miyabi’s answer is chosen for this one…

Notice how Miyabi is the closest to the hosts. I guess somebody thought she’d be the crowd pleased of the group.

The hosts asks the girls a seemingly innocent question…

And again they get an answer in unison. At first it seems a little odd tome, such a vehement answer. But maybe I just don’t understand teenage girls the way I used to.

As a woman in her thirties, Aoki says she always wears make-up and makes the above observation about herself.

Next is the question about whether the girls are collecting anything.

And Saki’s collecting 500 yen coins, which unfortunately makes me think of Takitty again…

However, Saki – looking very cute and thoughtful in this shot – gets into it and explains she got the idea from Chinami, that she’s been collecting for a year, how much she has saved, and that she’ll use the money to buy her mother a present.

That last part makes Nishino positively swoon. I have to admit, I was impressed as well. Saki seems to be quite the virtuous daughter as well as a conscientious captain.

The girls all get a monthly allowance, and Chinami only gets… thirty dollars a month? At her age I was getting significantly more! We should start a fund to give to Chinami every month so she can buy more stuff…

Yurina seems to be getting an even rawer deal… until she reveals that she sometimes gets 10,000 yen from her grandfather when he visits. (And I bet her grandfather is younger than me, too!)

Nishino teases Yurina about this, though who said her grandfather is retired? He could still be under sixty, after all. Hm, I wonder if Yurina’s grandmother is a hottie… Because if she’s under sixty, the age difference between Yurina’s grandma and me will be less than that between me and Yurina. (Hey, it could be worse: I could be wondering if Yurina’s rich grandpa bats for the other team…)

The next question…

… goes to beautiful, beautiful Maasa.

Basically, she’s got a bed but has too many dolls on it. And is growing taller. But it seems the dolls are the big motivator here.

Nishino doesn’t understand the comfort a familiar doll – or in my case, stuffed animals – can provide towards a good night’s sleep. All the girls sleep with their dolls still, and even Aiko admits to doing the same now.

Anyway, I feel obliged to say something absolutely wrong and lascivious about Maasa and her bedtime habits – but nothing comes to mind at the moment. If anything, I just continue to be impressed at how attractive she’s becoming. Really. Wowza.

And here’s where the fun starts…

The question goes to Chinami, who feels she’s lacking in sexiness despite being quite genki…

And she compares her own wardrobe to Risako, who apparently dresses sexier…

I like how Risako reacts through all this. It’s actually endearing in its mild confusion and utter lack of guile. A nice reminder, as if we need any, that she’s still so young.

I can’t fathom what’s going through her head as she’s being discussed in this manner…

On the one hand, she probably appreciates the attention and being thought of as so mature…

On the other hand, there’s a kind of playful accusation to how Chinami talks about her. Not jealousy quite – okay, maybe a hint of jealousy – but a kind of bemusement, a gentle sense of the absurd that suits Chinami.

Anyway, Nishino and Aoki run with this, positioning Risako as the hottie of the Berryz. Which is fair, though I’d argue there are other contenders. Really, shouldn’t Yurina be the one a girl wouldn’t want her boyfriend to meet? Yurina’s the beauty of the group! But it’s all about sexiness, we find out, and that’s something Risako, um, apparently has.

I like the “devil girl” line here, and the discomfort in Risako’s smile. It’s the look of somebody whose cheeks are being pinched but at the same time being insulted – wanna be polite, wanna not make a big fuss, but still it burns…

And the helpful advice continues to be dispensed…

“Here” being the knee, I should hasten to add.

Nishino illustrates by placing Aoki’s hand on his lap. Aoki then takes it that one step further and plants her hand right on his crotch…

Nishino hits Aoki in shock. Notice how some of the girls don’t immediately react, notably Saki and Miyabi…

Then they begin to understand just what they saw, their mind begins to process “Aoki’s hand + Nishino’s crotch” – which probably meant admitting Nishino’s crotch existed in the first place…

The girls are all a-twitter, but it’s the way they interact – especially Miyabi shoving Risako, who goes into a huddle of denial – that’s endearing. It’s easy to believe they’re friends and not just co-workers here.

And here’s where I fall in love with Aoki Sayaka. Because she doesn’t look abashed or ashamed – she actually looks mad at Nishino! As if she was hit by him for no good reason. Wow. That takes a special something, you know? Not arrogance so much as… I don’t know. But I’d love to know more about her now.

Momoko is absolutely adorable here.

Her arms crossed over her body, as if hugging herself for comfort.

And the look of fear as she takes another look…

Meanwhile, Chinami seems to be taking it in stride.

Nishino tries to bring back normalcy by returning to his example… Bad move! Aoki palms his crotch again…

And then she goes after the girls with that self-same crotch-palming hand!

I have to say, this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in Jpop…

Several of the girls seem to be having fun at being scared. Notably, the ones further away from Aoki.

Aoki’s actually trying to assault the girls with both her hands, but it’s only the right hand (her right hand, that is) which is “tainted” or whatever.

The bizarreness of this scene is fucking brilliant.

But of course, it’s all fun and games until an idol starts crying.

In this case, Saki.

Or maybe she’s upset because she’s the oldest but it was the baby of the group who was deemed sexiest…?

Shimi’s actually pretty endearing here. Again, it’s brought home how young these girls are, even Saki. And unlike the “Jiriri” PV, the genuine nature of this situation works in her favor.

Nishino looks on as Aoki tries to compose herself. Now it’s the hosts who are shocked, not the guests.

I think what also helps Shimi here is that she’s laughing as she’s crying – she sees the humor in the situation. It’s not overly dramatic, it’s a spur-of-the-moment surprise and she sees it for that as well as for a potential trauma that could leave her in therapy for years.

Originally, I thought it was odd that Saki would be driven to tears by this incident – that it showed how juvenile the Berryz are, an opinion encouraged in no small part by the drawings on the DVD single.

Now, though, I can understand better how she could freak out. Maybe not to the point of tears, but there was confusion, and then Aoki becomes threatening – and yeah, seeing somebody grab at a man’s crotch, if you’re fourteen you probably won’t know what to expect next.

Anyway, Saki’s response to why she’s crying: “It’s scary…”

Now: “it”? What did she mean by it? Nishino’s crotch? Aoki’s hand? Or just a general “it” of the situation?

And here’s where Aoki completely wins my heart: she looks like she’s about to burst out laughing.

She’s both horrified at what she’s done and finds it incredibly funny – a mixed reaction I definitely understand, given the circumstances.

Lord knows, I’ve been in situations where I know I should be feeling bad – and instead, I take a sick and twisted delight in whatever minor act of evil I’ve committed, intentional or not. Seeing Aoki like this, I’m so head over heels for her. She completely rocks the Ishibashi Takaaki vibe with this stunt.

Anyway, everyone’s still kind of reeling, but the tears are already fading…

And then Maasa steps up to the plate again and makes a simple judgment that shows another side of how friggin’ cool she is.

Nishino asks a question to clarify.

And Maasa lays down the law with even more clarity.

Nishino, to his credit, tries to defend himself.

Yeah, Maasa may have gone too far with calling them both disgusting – but I love how she’s willing to take the moral high ground and not just fall into tears or play along silently. These kind of strong opinions are great for an idol, leading to the kind of banter that make these geinou showcases truly fun to watch.

All in all, this is a great example of how Jpop can give great moments: the hosts push it to far, there’s a sudden reversal where they’re put on the defensive by the guests, and then there’s a kind of struggle between guests and hosts that is genuine and yet playful at the same time. Utaban used to specialize in such fare – such as when second gen Tanpopo debuted on the show and Iida finally blew her top when the special effects wizardry went (way) too far. The best geinou television often isn’t about hosts surprising guests, but about guests bringing out unexpected aspects in themselves and surprising the hosts.

At this point, Aoki and Nishino make an attempt at damage control…

Which brings up another important part of the geinou TV equation: how well a host reacts to being surprised. Ishibashi has a kind of slow burn – of letting the surprise sink in for him, even as he laughs at the absurdity he’s brought on. Here, Aoki and Nishino are hilarious – perhaps unintentially so – for trying to protect the innocence of their young guests. It’s charming, how much they want to assure the Berryz after the fact, almost afraid of further tears from Shimi-chan.

Really, though, “I barely touched it” is probably as bad as “grab it” to these girls.

Still, they try to clarify how much touching went on. It’s getting to be like the Warren Commission – Aoki’s hand stopped, turned – in mid-air – as Nishino’s testicles went back, and to the left…

And finally, Aoki just wants to end this. Again, her impatience about her apology is endearing. But it’s kind of like when Hard Gay got cornered by the children on the slide – the comedian thinks they’ve got something funny, and it turns funnier by surprise, and strictly at their expense…

The next question is interesting, if only because it provoked some initial jealousy. As I’m re-reading Lolita right now, the passages where narrator Humbert Humbert writes guardedly of how he needs to watch Lo carefully and make sure brutish teenage boys don’t have their way with her… Ah, it hits a tad too close to home, that sense of helplessness.

That said, I was proud to see four of the girls are indeed able to declare their love. I guess the more salient point is, would UFA allow them to declare that love and have them date boys, or are they going to have to sneak around? And really, shouldn’t some of these girls – if not all of them – at least be allowed on group dates at this point?

It’s actually kind of odd that the girls would have to rehearse their expressions of young love – and sing about young love in their songs – and yet not be allowed to partake of it. Tsunku says that’s why he writes the songs he does, so that the girls can experience through music what they’re missing out – but Lord knows, that’s a kind of Baudrillard-esque answer where simulacara has replaced the real thing.

Shimi is first, as captain… Am I going to start calling her Shimi from now on? It seems a bit too cutesy, even for her.

Anyway, she does a good job, even asks for a date.

Nishino swoons, and I have to give him credit: he plays along and seems lovestruck but doesn’t ever strike me as creepy. Probably because, for all his fawning over the Berryz, he really isn’t interested – just wants to encourage them. In that sense, perhaps Ishibashi would be more interesting as the Berryz grow riper…

Miyabi is next, proclaiming, “Sukidesu!” and being quite proud of it.

Yurina actually has to steel herself…

But she has a very nice, nuanced profession of love to make!

Yurina’s a bit of a surprise on this show, as she seems a tad… goofy?… in a typical, childish way. Like, she’s the kind of person you expect to snort a little when she starts laughing real hard. She’s not as sure of herself as some of the other girls on the show, but she’s engaging nonetheless. Miyabi seemed to also be caught off guard a little, but not as obviously.

Last but not least is Devil Girl Risako.

“Daisuke!” Said with a triumphant whoop of intonation, like she’s playing tag or something.

Aoki provides encouragement to the girls… perhaps too much, Nishino thinks.

And at this point, Maasa pipes up again! And this is pretty cool, because she’s showing that she isn’t shy, just that she has certain expectations of what her young romances should be like. Momoko and Chinami enthusiastically chime in their own agreement.

All of which surprises the hosts, yet again.

Nishino explains that he’s often the one who professes his love to a girl and not vice-versa…

And Maasa catches him flat-footed again by bluntly asking if he’s been dumped. Wow! The girl’s on fire, and getting great laughs, to boot!

Nishino steps upto the plate and in humorous detail explains his New Year’s Eve dumping. He does so with a rush of bad feeling that makes it even funnier.

Maasa really surprises me, and she may well overtake Momoko and Chinami in my heart. Not only is she becoming more and more of a beauty, but she’s got a strong idol personality waiting to develop – a brashness to match her enviable height. (Well, enviable among the other girls of H!P.)

Risako may have gotten more attention and Momoko may have been the cutest – that is, in her own Momoko way – but Maasa was the MVP for this segment, hands down. She shows that she knows what it takes to be a good idol on a show like this, and I can’t wait to see her face off against other hosts in the future. Not just Ishibashi and Nakai either, but those strange fuckers on Hey! Hey! Hey!

The girls ask Aoki to show how she tells a guy she loves him and she does so… Of course, Nishino stops swooning long enough to knock Aoki’s efforts as poor. Aoki agrees with him that it was too serious.

The next segment has Aoki answer the request of one of the Berryz.

It’s Momoko’s request, of how she wants to win over Aoki – apparently, in both senses of the phrase. She not only admires Aoki and wants to be like her, she also wants to beat her in some kind of competition. Kind of like when a martial arts student shows his thanks by beating up his master, I guess.

That said, is Momoko just sucking up to Aoki because it’s her show or does she really admire the woman? If the latter, I have to say that’s quite a canny move on her part – it shows the imagination of a young lady who sees her geinou career in the long term, who doesn’t think glamour and youthfulness is the be-all and end-all of the business. So Momoko may not only be a postmodernist, she may also be a wise careerist as well!

Aoki allows her to choose the nature of their duel and Momoko chooses the obvious. Apparently, the set of Music Fighter isn’t equipped with Foxy Boxing, Jello Wrestling, or anything like that.

Aoki says she thinks she can win, and Momoko talks just a teensy bit of smack in return. It’s adorable smack talk, though, and Momoko shows how charming she is – even when she makes a veiled threat, she’s got that Momoko charm!

And so, the gauntlet has been thrown!

Unfortunately, Momoko makes her first big mistake when she doesn’t immediately realize something obvious.

Aoki gets in a great dig at her as a result. Oh, be still my heart!

Nishino counts this in Aoki’s favor and then the contest begins.

Aoki and Momoko blink, but Aoki’s some kind of strange, fluttering eyelid machine. She wins this contest, Nishino raises her arm. One can only wonder if Momoko is now preparing for a rematch.

After that, the Berryz get to perform. The emphasis on Devil Girl Risako is pretty obvious, now that Music Fighter has determined she’s the sexy one.

And despite being told to appreciate the cute dance of the Berryz, the cameramen do their usually slam-bang job of getting slightly suggestive shots whenever possible.

It’s so nice to see the song performed and know what colors the girls are wearing… unlike, say, the PV.

And the girls are really into the performance again, dancing vigorously and flirting with the camera in their own ways.

Momoko’s moves remain the most distinctive to me… I think I’ve pinned down why, but will get into it in a later post.

The girls grabbing each other’s sides is more playful and less suggestive than in the PV, which is for the best.

Is it me, or does this set make others think that the Berryz should be conferring with Lex Luthor and Sinestro for their latest plot against the Superfriends?

Saki looking great. My faith in her as an idol grows, though it’s taken me a while to realize she has as much potential as the others.

Yurina looks great here. That’s all I have to say.

Look at how bony Chinami’s arms are! Not alarmingly so, she’s just a skinny teenager, but the urge to feed her a cheeseburger is strong.

Beautiful Maasa and her awe-inspiring shoulders, however, are perfectly proportioned.

Now that’s a devil girl smile! Risako’s got the best raw idol talent of the group, with the possible exceptions of Momoko (who earns the most rabid fans, it seems) and Miyabi (who’s developed her talent the most at this point).

One last dramatic swing of arms, legs, hair…

It’s a pretty damn good performance, comparable to the Hello! Morning performance (which I still want to write about).

The time with Berryz ends on a strange note…

Part of this segment is meant to make fun of how old Aoki is…

The rest is to make fun of what a gloomy child she is.

The idols think Aoki’s diary is hilarious – but what the heck, they’ve had a pretty spectacular (if unusual) childhood, all things considered. Kids their age grew up dancing and singing with Minimoni on their television – these girls actually danced and sang with Minimoni on the stage, sweating along with Tsuji and Kago and Mika. And the future is even brighter for them.

The girls have done a lot of growing up in front of the camera and it’s looking like they’re no longer just a junior H!P act but idols who can stand on their own. If their singles continue to be consistently great, if they can do great television like this on a more regular basis, they can play a significant role in the rejuvenation of H!P. I think that’s exactly what H!P’s management is counting on, actually.

It makes me think: we’ve had a great Utaban segment with the Golden Age Musume, now a great Music Fighter with Berryz. Who’s missing from the equation of memorable television appearances in recent memory…? Berryz have a new mini-album scheduled in a couple months, the sales of “Jiriri” apparently surprised everyone. The future definitely seems to be here, as far as H!P is concerned. If I was a current Morning Musume and my name wasn’t Mikitty, maybe it’s time to get worried.

Someone’s breathing down their backs and it smells like Momoko spirit…


Comments (Comments are closed)

One Response to “Berryz Koubo on Music Fighter”
  1. crs says:

    Hehhh. Great source material and really enjoyable post. I think a lot of the time when there’s an idol group who gives a funny TV interview like this, there’s a TV host working subtly or not so subtly in the background to make everything run smoothly. It was really interesting to me to see how perfunctory Miyabi’s segments were; even though she got two questions, I think, the bathing and the eyebrow ones, the hosts didn’t seem to riff on her answers the way they did on Momoko’s, Maasa’s, and Risako’s, probably because there was nothing to riff on; Miyabi’s not exactly great at giving a charismatic interview, haha. So to me that suggests that the big 3 (Yurina seems to drop in and out of the spotlight…) had pre-planned questions, but it was up to the hosts, of course, to pick out who was most fertile comic ground. And in that sense, Momoko’s answers seemed really on-point to me, because they were interesting, but also open-ended enough to get a dialogue going between her and the hosts. Whereas Risako and Miyabi seemed to say little other than “…Hai,” or “No, I shave them.”

    Aoki has always cracked me up. I didn’t even know who she was until she yowled on that P’unk~en~Ciel song, but since then, I always try to DL Music Fighter when I can. Unlike the female host on Music Station, who seems to be more stereotypically “feminine,” Aoki reminds me a lot of the hosts from Utaban and Hey!x3, in how there’s a really strong underlying confidence in the way she interviews and makes jokes about others and herself. Because even when the joke’s on her and she acts embarrassed, there’s no real ‘shame’ involved, and you can tell she wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. She seems to enjoy even jokes that backfire on her. Plus I think, maybe even more than Nishino, I get a real feeling of hospitality from Aoki, in the sense that she’s making an effort to make the guests feel comfort *because* of her innate confidence–she doesn’t need to be catered to, so she can do the catering, if that makes sense. And just to finish up the Aoki splooging, I also think she continues the tradition of really great hosts who can operate in two frames: the one where they’re being observed with the guests, where they’re telling jokes and being made fun of, etc., which is the one Aoki and Nishino filled most obviously this show. And then there’s also the larger setting, where the hosts inevitably exert more power than the guests; the guests might come off looking good, but it’s still the hosts’s show and so shaped.